Opening statements are set to begin Wednesday in former Trump White House adviser Peter Navarro's criminal trial on contempt of Congress charges after a jury was selected.
A panel of 12 jurors and two alternates was selected Tuesday after a daylong process in Washington, D.C., federal court that began with 50 potential jurors.
The trial, in which Navarro is accused of ignoring subpoenas for documents and testimony from the House Jan. 6 committee, should be a speedy one. Each side said it expects opening statements to last about 25 minutes, and prosecutors told U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta that their direct questioning of witnesses would not last more than half a day.
Mehta last week rejected Navarro’s bid to dodge contempt charges by trying to invoke executive privilege, a privilege that can protect presidential deliberations. Navarro claimed that former President Donald Trump had directed him to invoke executive privilege before the congressional panel that investigated the events in the lead-up to and during the Capitol attack on Jan. 6, 2021.
At a pretrial hearing last week, Mehta said he had found no evidence to support Navarro’s claim.
Mehta cited three pillars of claiming executive privilege: It must be invoked by the president or an authorized representative, it must be made after personal consideration by the president or an authorized representative, and it cannot be validly asserted by what Mehta called “mere acquiescence” or a “blanket assertion of privilege.”
Trump did not submit any evidence asserting that he had claimed executive privilege in Navarro’s case.
Before he allowed the trial to proceed, Mehta noted last week that Navarro did not cite any language that he alleged Trump used when he discussed executive privilege with him. “Even if there aren’t magic words,” Mehta said, there should be “some words” or a “smoke signal” about what Trump said.
Speaking to reporters Tuesday before jury selection started, Navarro said he had “effectively been stripped of most of the possible defenses in this case” and predicted the case would ultimately be determined by the Supreme Court.
"This case is not really about me. It’s about the constitutional separation of powers and executive privilege," he said.
A federal grand jury indicted Navarro, 74, last year on two counts of contempt of Congress, one for failing to provide papers and the other for failing to provide testimony to the House Jan. 6 committee. The indictment followed a criminal referral from the House of Representatives for his shunning of the committee’s subpoenas.
Navarro pleaded not guilty to both charges. The now-defunct committee pushed back against Navarro’s executive privilege claims at the time, arguing that it needed information from him because he played a key role “in the ex-president’s effort to overturn the 2020 election.”
The panel noted that Navarro has publicly boasted about his plans to challenge the election results, including a plan he called the “Green Bay Sweep” in a book he published in 2021. Navarro also said publicly that Trump was “on board with the strategy.”
The panel also said that even if he was asserting executive privilege, Navarro had a duty to show to physically show up and to answer questions that would not have been privileged.